“Reanimating the dead: reconstruction of expressive faces from skull data” by Haber, Kähler and Seidel

  • ©Jörg Haber, Kolja Kähler, and Hans-Peter Seidel




    Reanimating the dead: reconstruction of expressive faces from skull data



    Facial reconstruction for postmortem identification of humans from their skeletal remains is a challenging and fascinating part of forensic art. The former look of a face can be approximated by predicting and modeling the layers of tissue on the skull. This work is as of today carried out solely by physical sculpting with clay, where experienced artists invest up to hundreds of hours to craft a reconstructed face model. Remarkably, one of the most popular tissue reconstruction methods bears many resemblances with surface fitting techniques used in computer graphics, thus suggesting the possibility of a transfer of the manual approach to the computer. In this paper, we present a facial reconstruction approach that fits an anatomy-based virtual head model, incorporating skin and muscles, to a scanned skull using statistical data on skull / tissue relationships. The approach has many advantages over the traditional process: a reconstruction can be completed in about an hour from acquired skull data; also, variations such as a slender or a more obese build of the modeled individual are easily created. Last not least, by matching not only skin geometry but also virtual muscle layers, an animatable head model is generated that can be used to form facial expressions beyond the neutral face typically used in physical reconstructions.


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